After picking up just 3 points in their last 5 games, it is safe to say that Unai Emery’s Arsenal are faltering. This would be just two points if it wasn’t for Alex Lacazette’s 96th-minute equaliser against a 19th placed Saints side. Southampton outshot the Gunners 12-21 away from home, and will feel that this is a game they should have taken 3 points back to St Mary’s from. Moussa Djenepo had two clear cut chances to score in the second half, only for Joe Willock to clear one, and the other dragged wide. Unrest among the fans seems to have reached boiling point, with many feeling that Emery’s position is untenable. Boos and Emery-out chants were heard throughout the ground following the final whistle.
Should the powers that be relieve the Spaniard of his duties in the near future, what are the options that the board could consider?
Caretaker/Internal Appointment: Freddie Ljungberg
Should a successor not be lined up in an immediate fashion, such as we saw last week in N17, appointing a caretaker for the short term would be the move to make. At the moment, the prime candidate is Freddie Ljungberg, who was promoted to First Team Assistant Coach last summer, following his work with the Arsenal U23 side. The Swede is the obvious internal appointment to make, considering that much of Arsenal’s backroom staff is made up of Emery’s team, which has followed him from club to club.
Youngsters such as Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock have praised Ljungberg’s work, with Saka citing him as “a big part” in his progress. Appointing Ljungberg would certainly unite the fanbase, given the hope that Ljungberg could help to instil some of the invincible mentality as seen in 2003/04, and bring attractive football back to N5. It remains to be seen as to who could make up the rest of the backroom staff in a caretaker scenario, however, it is clear that Freddie would have a plethora of ex-players to call on should he need to, including Ryan Garry who worked alongside Freddie as U23 Assistant.
Prodigy: Mikel Arteta
The former Arsenal captain left in 2016 to become Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City, and has since helped them to win back to back Premier League titles amassing a record-breaking 100 points in 2017/18 and beating the European Champions Liverpool to the title on the last day of the 2018/19 season. The Telegraph claim that Arteta was offered a coaching role by Arsene Wenger back in 2016 when he retired, however, he opted to join Guardiola at City.
It is also rumoured that Arteta was primed to take the managerial position, back in 2018, with the ex-captain expecting to get the job. Ivan Gazidis and Co eventually went with the experience of current coach Emery, due to his willingness to fit into the club structure (www.independent.co.uk).
Arteta certainly has fans within the game and has been rumoured to be a driving factor behind the improvements shown by City duo Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, helping Sterling to adjust to a new right-sided role. Arteta claims to have ironed out “bad habits” in Sterling’s game, helping to improve his body position in possession and penalty box movement leading to a rich vein of form (www.theguardian.com). Videos of Arteta’s coaching have surfaced online, with many Arsenal fans seeming impressed by the Spaniard.
In terms of backroom staff, one name does spring to mind. Liverpool legend Xabi Alonso is a lifelong friend of Mikel Arteta and currently the manager of Real Sociedad B. Should Arteta get the job, we could see Alonso make his first foray into senior coaching, following a stint with Real Madrid’s U14s.
Experience: Massimiliano Allegri
Ex AC Milan and Juventus Manager Allegri is the obvious choice in the free-agent market. The Italian has been out of work since leaving Juventus at the end of last season, following the 5 Scudettos in a row he won there with ‘The Old Lady’ and would look to bring much needed typically-Italian defensive stability to Emirates Stadium. Allegri, similarly to Emery has been seen as a pragmatist, often adapting his gameplan depending on the opponents, and like Emery has come under criticism for this.
Juve under Allegri have missed out on the Champions League multiple times, allegedly due to an overly defensive approach. Elio Salerno of Football Italia claims that “Allegri’s Juventus has no identity” and that the Italian instils “negative tactics and boring football”, traits which Arsenal supporters have also branded Emery with (www.football-italia.net).
There is no doubt that Allegri has won accolades in his time, however Arsenal fans will feel that they want someone to bring an attacking identity back to Emirates Stadium, and it remains to be seen whether Allegri is the man for this.
Mauricio Pochettino anyone? Pigs are more likely to fly, right? Right?